Good USB DAC under/around $50-75?
Dec 4, 2014 at 7:33 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 11

Johnsy11

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I am searching for a good compact USB DAC in the realms of between $50 and $75 though will go higher if tempting features and specifications are present. I would like it to natively support Mac OS 10.5.8 though I have dual-booted it with windows 7 though the windows side only has a total of 30GB (not space left, total partition size).
I will be using it with either Sennheiser HD380 Pro's or Sennheiser HD600's so DAC purity is paramount. Also looking for a wider frequency response than the (overly used) standard of 20-20,000Hz. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Also if there is a DAC with line out and decent audio input it may be favorable to me. And capable of high impedance.
 
Thanks for any help!
If you have information, it would be even more appreciated if you could include the name of the product, link to its official web page and a price estimation.
 
P.S. There is currently and ad in the corner of my screen with an image of beats pro's. Not even kidding. Ever get that feeling of utter disappointment?
 
Dec 4, 2014 at 7:47 AM Post #2 of 11

DrSheep

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Not trying to be a dick, but I highly doubt that you will find a DAC/AMP combo that can drive 300 ohms well at that price.
 
Dec 4, 2014 at 8:40 AM Post #3 of 11

superjawes

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1. I am going to assume that you already have an amp, because it is very unlikely that you will find a $75 DAC/amp combo that will drive the HD600 well.

2. 20 Hz to 20 KHz is the range of human hearing. It doesn't make any sense to have something wider than that (unless you want to pay a premium for buzzword compliance).

3. If you want value, you should check out Schiit's Modi and the ODAC. I haven't personally used an ODAC, but it is commonly recommended. Modi sells for $99, but it is a fantastic little DAC.
 
Dec 4, 2014 at 9:59 AM Post #4 of 11

AlrightMister

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It doesn't get much more compact than Stoner Acoustics UD120. If you can live with a DAC that can fit in your backpack but not your pocket +1 for usb Modi. As far as features go... the Modi has an LED, the UD120 does not :wink:
 
Dec 6, 2014 at 7:20 AM Post #5 of 11

Johnsy11

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I checked out the Schiit Fulla and it looks cool. Amp+DAC combo for $80 is pretty cool. The reason I am looking for more than just 20Hz-20KHz range is because to me it means they did not test the headphone/dac properly. Plus any good headphone/dac will have a freq response greater than 20Hz-20KHz so I assume the company is lazy and preying on the general consumers' ignorance. I have a pair of $70 sennheisers that have a freq response of 14Hz-20KHz and beats is happy with their $400 headphones having a freq response of 20Hz-20KHz? (sorry for bringing beats into this discussion). I do have a... kind of amp... if you consider a $2000 (at the time, probably worth more now) fully transistor amplifier usually used to drive Linn Isobarik "Sara"s and a preamp that should also be transistor. Thanks for the feedback!
 
Dec 12, 2014 at 9:15 PM Post #6 of 11

AlrightMister

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20Hz-20KHz is the default quoted spec because it is all that is necessary to cover the range of human hearing. More than necessary in fact. There is no point in spending money to produce a flat response above 20K so why bother quoting it? Some will say that they can hear tones up to 23KHz or whatever but if there were a headphone or speaker that delivered a flat response to that freq what that person could hear up there would be miniscule. A veritable squeak. If you look at spectograms from music you listen to or watch the live one in foobar there isn't a whole hell of a lot of info above 17K anyway. And anything below 20Hz isn't so much heard as it is felt. There is a reason that is the default quoted spec and it isn't laziness, it's relevance. 
 
May 2, 2015 at 11:04 AM Post #8 of 11

Johnsy11

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Got the fulla, sounds absolutely amazing. Nothing bad to say at all. Well worth $80, plus $30 for shipping. I will talk more about the Frequency response thing, and that is frequency responses are usually tested to a value, for example if something states 20Hz-20kHz -3dB, then the headphone will never generate any frequency with more than 3dB variance in that range, so no tones are much louder or quieter than the rest. Consider a frequency response of a headphone appearing like a parabolic ark of y=-x squared. Larger frequency responses do the equivalent of y=-1/2 x squared, which is twice as flat, which therefore sounds better most of the time. That is why I prefer a wider frequency response than 20-20000Hz. Also, I can hear 16-22000Hz, so once again, a wider frequency response is preferred. Also, one last thing, to do with the lazyness quote, what are the chances a headphone would produce exactly 20-20000Hz? Slim, and when designing the driver, I would imagine the budget would not produce a driver exactly to the ears regular response. Maybe they all use the same driver, who knows. Someone, obviously, but maybe they use that number as it is what the ear can hear, and as a marketing spec to the ignorant. 
 
May 2, 2015 at 9:45 PM Post #9 of 11

cel4145

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Got the fulla, sounds absolutely amazing. Nothing bad to say at all. Well worth $80, plus $30 for shipping. I will talk more about the Frequency response thing, and that is frequency responses are usually tested to a value, for example if something states 20Hz-20kHz -3dB, then the headphone will never generate any frequency with more than 3dB variance in that range, so no tones are much louder or quieter than the rest. Consider a frequency response of a headphone appearing like a parabolic ark of y=-x squared. Larger frequency responses do the equivalent of y=-1/2 x squared, which is twice as flat, which therefore sounds better most of the time. That is why I prefer a wider frequency response than 20-20000Hz. Also, I can hear 16-22000Hz, so once again, a wider frequency response is preferred. Also, one last thing, to do with the lazyness quote, what are the chances a headphone would produce exactly 20-20000Hz? Slim, and when designing the driver, I would imagine the budget would not produce a driver exactly to the ears regular response. Maybe they all use the same driver, who knows. Someone, obviously, but maybe they use that number as it is what the ear can hear, and as a marketing spec to the ignorant. 


Glad the Fulla is working for you :)

Might want to learn more about headphones and frequency response:

Most headphones are not specified with a +/-3db rating frequency response because most headphones wouldn't conform to that.

Headphone frequency responses do not generally look like parabolic arcs.

The problem in talking about headphone frequency responses and manufacturer stats is that you don't know if it's a measured vs perceived response.

Audio manufacturers often exaggerate stats.
 

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